Really tuning the guitar (for the non-beginner)
Prepared by Alan Humm
Table of Contents
Tuning by ear
5th-4th fret method
Fixed note method
If you are a beginner
If you are a beginner, this group of pages is way too much information.
Here's the skinny. Ask someone who knows what they are doing to make sure your guitar is
reasonably properly intoned. Then skip all the stuff about tuners
and just get a simple clip-on tuner. Now, jump to the section on tuning your guitar by ear and read on through the 5th-4th fret method, which you can use to make sure
your tuner got it right. That's it. Come back in a couple of years. By
then the rest of this might be useful.
Is your guitar tunable?
See the section on intonation in Buying a Guitar:
Beginners. I realize this is some what circular since the second
paragraph sends you back here to get in tune. Nevertheless, the first
paragraph tells you how to check your instrument's primary intonation.
Electric guitars with adjustable bridges usually, although not always,
allow you to address this issue. See sidenote
The most important part of really getting in tune on the guitar is
something you don't have much control over. It is called
intonation. You will need to check it on this guitar1
before you try to tune it. If it is a little bit off in this area, you
should still be able to get the guitar generally in tune, but if it is
significantly off, there is nothing you can do to ever make it
right.2 If it is a cheapo, give it away. If it is expensive,
talk to someone in the know (like the tech guy at a music store) about
whether it is possible to fix.
If it is a little off, but not significantly, your best bet may be to
use an electronic tuner (next section). The standard ear-methods are
just going to be frustrating. You will, over time, learn which strings
need tweaking. An unwound third string is the most common bad actor on
electrics. The low E (sixth string) is often a problem on acoustics. You
may find that you have to tweak a little between songs, check, but not
tune to, the most frequently used chords, particularly if you are
changing keys (and so changing the most frequently used set of chords).
Electronic tuners come in a number of varieties. Most of them these days
are digital. These will usually give you a row of lights or a
needle-type meter that shows you where you are currently tuned.
Somewhere or another it will also tell you what the nearest note is.
Your goal is to get the needle in the middle, or get the 'in-tune' light
lit, for each string on your instrument. If the needle (I am just going
to call it that, even thought it may be a light on your particular
tuner) is to the right (generally) of center, you need to tighten the
string; if it is to the left, you need to loosen it. But make sure to
check the note indicated on the tuner so you don't end up tuning to the
Korg guitar tuner.
There are several variations you need to be aware of. The first has to
do with how many notes are supported. Some less expensive models are
strictly for guitar in standard tuning. This means they only support
notes in the normal guitar range, and often only E, A, D, G, B, & E.
This may be fine for you, but it will not work if you ever experiment
with alternate tunings, want to get in tune with a capo on, or
completely shift your tuning (say, to E?as is popular with some electric
guitarists in particular-I tune down a full step because my voice has
changed over time). It will also be irritating for your saxophone
playing friends, if they want to borrow it.
The alternative is to shop for a 'chromatic' or an 'all-instrument'
tuner. These will cost slightly more (like three dollars), but will
handle the wider range and the range of notes. These days, many 'guitar
tuners' may handle these things as well, so read the description or ask
the salesperson if you are unsure. Be particularly on the lookout for
this limitation if you are shopping second-hand (e.g. eBay or a pawn
shop), since guitar-only tuners were much more common until recently.
These days most manufacturers have figured out that the majority of
guitarists, at least occasionally, go outside the standard-tuning box.
By plug-through I mean that you can put them in line between your
instrument and amplifier which allows you to keep them plugged in during
your performance for quick between song tunings. But you should check it
on an amp before you buy. Some plug-through devices affect the output,
even when they are in bypass mode. Cutting your volume or your high end
are the most common side-effects of plug-through. Compare the
plug-through sound with what you get going straight into an amp. This
applies to other boxes you may put in between your guitar and your amp
as well. It is always something you want to check.
Fender tuner with built-in microphone.
The next consideration is how the tuner figures out what note you are
playing. There are three primary types: built-in mic, plug-in, and
clip-on. The built-in microphone ones are the original, and still the
most flexible, but they have limitations. They can 'hear' any
instrument, but are easily distracted by background noise (they 'hear'
that too). Most also have plug-in capability (or
plug-through3), so if there is too much noise, and you have an
output on your guitar, you can tune that way.
Rocktron rack tuner.
Planet Waves Pedal tuner.
N-Tune built in guitar tuner.
Strictly plug-in tuners will only work using the latter method, so your
sax-playing buddies will still not be happy, just for different reasons.
Still, it has real advantages for live-play. The displays tend to be
large and well lit, and are designed for quick on-the-fly tuning. They
are available as pedal models, that look like stomp-boxes, rack mount
varieties, that probably give you a little more accuracy (I'm thinking
they better, for the price), and even built-in to your guitar (if you
really don't want to share).
FZone Clip-On Tuner.
Peterson Clip-On Plug.
The last variety, clip-ons, are probably the cheapest and the most
convenient, although I suspect they are among the least accurate. I did
mention that they are cheap and convenient, though, right? The idea is
that they clip onto the head of your guitar and read the vibrations from
the instrument itself. This means that they are less easily distracted
than their microphone based cousins, and you do not have to have a
pluggable instrument. They are also generally sharable, although with a
caveat: You have to be able to find something on the instrument to clip
to. The sax aficionados should be happy, since they can clip to the bell
of the sax. The flautist you bring in for Jethro Tull covers may not be
so pleased. Clip-on mics to drive a plug-in tuner are also available.
The Peterson in the picture (above right) claims to be usable on you
friend's flute as well.
Boss Needle-style tuner.
I mentioned earlier that most tuners are digital. In an earlier time
analog tuners were available. They are rarer now, but you might still
see these in second-hand sources. Personally, I preferred them because
they gave you a better sense of where your note really was.
Digital tuners all show you where you are in a range ± x
of the some standard. The value of x and the standard used
depend on the quality of the tuner. If you are playing with, say, an
older piano that may not be exactly at concert pitch, it is useful to be
able to tune slightly lower than concert. Maybe you are one of those
folks that believes that A = 432 Hz. Whatever the reason 'standard' may
not be right for you, and an analog tuner gives you more
freedom—if you can find one.
Peterson high-end tuner.
The other option is to spend a lot more money on digital. I said earlier
that I hoped the rack-mount tuner was more accurate, considering that it
costs 10 times as much. I am sure that varies by maker. But there are
tuners out there that blow my beloved little analog tuner out of the
water. The one on the left is accurate to 1/1000 of a semitone (0.1 of a
cent), and costs in the range of a month's rent (well, unless you live
in LA or NYC). There are others that run much higher, which you might go
for if you were a professional piano tuner, uh, except the best of those
folks do it by ear.
Sonic Research Turbo Tuner.
Generally I don't plug specific products. But if you are looking for a
reasonably high end tuner and don't want to mortgage the house for it,
Sonic Research makes a couple under the moniker of Turbo Tuner that,
while they don't quite come up to the Peterson above, do manage to out
perform most of the others that I am aware of (accurate to 0.2 of a
cent). It will cost you more than the clip-on pictured above, but
probably way less than a monthly car payment.
What I said about ± x in the paragraph about analog
tuners generally applies to what digital tuners regard as 'in tune' as
well. This means that there are always a range of actual frequencies
that they consider 'right,' and with lower end tuners, the difference
between one 'right' note and another may actually be audible. This means
that the tuner may say you are in tune, but you are not. Some notes are
in range, although slightly low, and others are in range, but slightly
high. In fact, only one of the strings is really close to being correct.
This is part of why you still don't sound in tune even after the tuner
says you are perfect. Higher quality tuners (and there may not be a
one-to-one correspondence between cost and quality), as I have said
earlier, will probably do better, but still won't solve the problem.
This is true even for the fancy month's rent one above.
The reason is every guitar is different; every set of strings is
different, even from the same set of strings yesterday; every day's
weather is different. And some days, your ears just haven't recovered
from last night's beer and heavy-metal fest. Whatever the reason, after
you have used the tuner, you need to get in tune.
Tuning by ear
First, a few thoughts on hearing the notes, no matter what tuning method
you prefer. While training yourself to do this, I recommend working
first with the higher strings because they are easier to hear, but just
for practice. Tuning the guitar from top to bottom (high string to low)
is a good deal more difficult. As your ear develops you will be able to
move either direction.
In any case, you start by getting some note in tune to a
standard. The standard for most instruments is A-440 (e.g. 440 Hz, which
is A above middle C). This is the fifth fret on the high E string.
Guitarists, though, often use E because that way they only have to tune
in one direction. If you are playing by yourself, you can use the
electronic tuner, if you have one, or a fixed-pitch instrument like a
piano or organ, or a tuning fork, or a pitch pipe, or.... It doesn't
really matter. Something.
The big exception is that when you are tuning across between a wound and
unwound string, the overtones are different, so the same note can sound
different enough that you get fooled. This is one place where an
electronic tuner can help train you ear.
In this example, we are going to assume that you got your low E in tune.
Start by playing the fifth fret on the E string along with the open A
string. Pluck one, and then while it is still ringing pluck the other.
If they sound like different notes, even a little bit, they probably
are.4 If the note you are tuning is higher, I recommend that
you de-tune it so it is lower. This is simply because your tuning keys
work better going up, and is true even if you have fine tuners such as
on a Floyd Rose bridge. Once you know you need to move the note up, try
to hear the difference as a sort of tune [it won't be like a melody, but
you can hear the interval in your head]. Now use the tuning keys to play
that tune backwards on the target string.
By they way, in order to do this, you have to have the string you are
tuning ringing while you are turning the key-you will hear the note
change as you tune it.
If you are struggling to hear
What you are hearing in these cases is that the two waves from the
string vibrations are so close that your ear cannot really distinguish
them, but it does hear when the peaks and valleys of the wave happen to
come together periodically. It hears those moments as volume change. You
will probably never be so in tune that the beats disappear, but the
closer you are to right the farther apart they get. Once they get far
enough apart, you will not be able to hear them any more, and we call
I am assuming that you can hear which is higher when the notes are far
enough apart. The challenge is when they get close, and you are
wondering, "Am I there yet?" If the notes sound almost right, but you
are not sure, you want to listen for a little tremolo sound when you
play both strings at the same time. If you hear that, the volume
fluctuations are called 'beats' and they tell you that you are not there
If you do not hear the beats, but you are pretty sure it is not quite
right, just de-tune and start over on that string. If you use the 'tune'
method I described above it will usually get you there. If that fails,
try playing both notes at the same time and, with both of them still
ringing, reach around with your picking hand and use that to tune the
string. Hearing both notes simultaneously is probably the best way to
get you there, but it is a challenging maneuver at first.
Tuning in a group
Vox headphone amp.
If you are in a crowd of other people trying to get in tune it is
sometimes harder to hear your own instrument. Electronic tuners (plug-in
or clip-on) come in particularly handy in those cases, but even so you
often want to be able to hear what you are doing. If you are pluggable,
a small headphone amp and headphones will do the trick. Sometimes
mini-amps will have a headphone output, but make sure that if you are
using it you can deactivate the built in speakers. Remember, other
people are trying to tune as well.
Graham Field Disposable Stethoscope.
If you can't plug in, another option I have used is a disposable
stethoscope. You just stick the head (called the chestpiece) inside your
sound-hole, and I suppose you can figure out where the ear pieces go.
Suddenly, you guitar is all you can hear. This will work with an
electric, too, but you will have figure how to make it stay put while
you tune. They are cheap. In the link from the picture, you can get ten
of them for half the price of the headphone amp above. Just getting one
is less than a set of strings (although perhaps you are willing to share
with some of your friends that are also trying to get in tune at the
same time). If you already have the non-disposable variety, I suppose
that will work too, but don't go out and buy one for this. You aren't
going to dispose of it ('disposable' is so medical people won't have to
use the same one on multiple people), and it has a lighter chestpiece
which I am more comfortable stuffing inside my guitar.
When everybody thinks they are in tune, don't just take their word for
it. Each player should check themselves (and perhaps their neighbor)
against the group playing the same notes, or sometimes chords, together.
Don't assume that just because everyone used an electronic tuner you are
5th-4th fret method
Unless you are a beginner you have seen this one before. It is the most
likely the first one you learned, and I am willing to bet it is still
the one you fall back on. If you don't want to learn it again, jump to
the last part of this section where I talk about its strengths and weaknesses.
Assuming you are using some version of standard tuning. If not, this
section won't help you much anyway. By 'some version' I simply mean that
if you are tuning the entire instrument a half-step low
(E♭) or something like that, the relative relationship
of the strings will still be in fourths.
The violin and the mandolin, for example, are tuned in fifths. The
exception to this rule is, I suppose, the cello which is tuned an octave
and a fifth lower than a violin (in fifths), but has a scale (string
length) slightly longer than a that of a standard guitar.
It is named that because it is the note that string sounds when you play
it open (unfretted).
Here is how it works. The guitar is tuned mostly in fourths.6
Most stringed instruments are either in fourths or fifths. The deciding
factor is usually the length of the neck relative to the size of the
average adult hand7 (this is just information-you don't need to know
this). Because it makes it easier to chord, and for historical reasons
with which I will not bore you, the second and third strings are tuned
in a major third. This may make playing a little easier, but has for
ages made tuning the instrument a pain in the behind for beginners.
Still, it is not too hard.
Start by tuning the low (sounding) E string by whatever means necessary.
If you got a tuner, as I suggested in the first paragraph, use it to
tune the low E. You could also tune it to the piano, a computer tuner,
or in the absence of any of those, guess. If you are playing by
yourself, and it was OK last time, it probably still is.
5th-4th fret tuning diagram.
In the picture, the vertical lines are the strings, and the horizontal
lines are the frets. The red/black line at the top is the nut (by the
tuning keys). The letters at the top, you probably already know, are the
string names, and the letters down the side are notes associated with
frets on the low E string.
To tune your guitar, you press the string down behind the fifth fret on
the low (sounding) E string (there is probably a dot there, unless you
have a classical guitar). That gives you an 'A' note, which happens to
be the name of the next string.8 So now you have two 'A' notes.
They should sound the same. If not, tune the A (fifth) string until it
matches the fretted E string.
I strongly recommend that you leave the string you are tuning (in this
case, the A string) ringing-pluck it again if you need to-while you are
tuning the string. You will hear it when it gets close. Randomly turning
the keys and hoping you will happen to land in the right place will make
this process take a long and frustrating time.
Now you use the same approach to tune the D string to the A string, and
the G string to the D string. At this point you run into that little
hiccup in tuning I mentioned earlier, so instead of going to the fifth
fret, you tune the B string to the fourth fret of the G string.
Then you go back to the fifth fret (of the B string) to tune the high E.
At this point you are done. The high E string should sound two octaves
above the low E string (i.e. sound like they are versions of the same
note, one high and the other low).
Strengths and weaknesses
Technically, there is nothing wrong with this approach. If your guitar
is perfectly intoned, your strings are broken in but not dying, and your
hearing is such that every note you tune is spot-on, this method will
work perfectly. It does not suffer from the perfect fifths problem that
weakens the next approach, since your frets perfectly set to deliver the
equal tempered scale. Why, then, have so many of us abandoned it in
favor of other methods? Simple. Since our hearing is completely perfect,
it must be that our guitars are faulty. That is why they never seem to be
in tune after using this method. It just makes sense.
Umm, well, yes, it is unlikely that many of have perfect guitars and
constantly perfect strings. But, while there are people who train their
ears so well that they can make a living off of them, most of us are not
professional piano tuners. What actually happens is this. You get the
first note mostly right. Then you get the next one mostly right, but
that is 'mostly right' relative to the last 'mostly right' string. Then
you do it again and, well, you get the idea. If you were 99% right for
each of five tunings (keeping in mind that your errors are cumulative),
you can be as much as 5% off by the time you get done. I am guessing you
can hear 5% off. Maybe you are a little sharp one time and a
little flat the next. If so, you are probably pretty close by the time
you are done, but most of us either tend to hear things sharp or flat
consistently, which means our errors accumulate.
Part of the problem may be that we generally have to remember the
sub-interval difference in our heads as we take our hands off the fret
in order to tune the target string, repeating that sub-interval in
reverse. This way, unless you stretch your picking hand around to the
tuning keys, you never hear the two notes at the same time while you are
actually turning the key. Also, we hear things better in the upper notes
than we do in the lower ones. I'll bet you are pretty accurate tuning
the high E string from the B, but not so much tuning the A from the low
E. The next approach tries to address both these problems.
The harmonics method
You have to be at a certain level as a guitarist before you even
can use this method. Maybe that has contributed to its
popularity-it impresses the neophytes to no end, which is particularly
nice if they happen to be attractive members of the other sex. But it
actually does have a couple of advantages (besides being impressive), to
which I alluded in the last paragraph. But let's look at the method
before analyzing it. If you already know about harmonics, and are able
to use them, you may skip the next two paragraphs (jump down next to the
fingerboard chart); if you already know this tuning method, feel free to
jump to its strengths and weaknesses.
This illustration is extracted from one by Y. Landman that I use on my
Waveforms and harmony page.
Look there for more information on the harmonic series.
Harmonics are created by subdividing the length of the string, creating
a node (place with no vibration) with out actually depressing the
string. You do this by lightly touching the string at a point where it
creates an even division (e.g. ½, ⅓,
¼, ⅕, etc.). The half is easy. That is
right over the twelfth fret (where you probably have two dots, or, if
you play classical, where the neck meets the body). If you have never
done this before, it is a good place to start. Touch the string lightly
right over the fret (but do no push it down). Pluck the string; it rings
an octave higher than the fundamental, and it is actually vibrating on
both sides of your finger. Here is what the first three harmonics look
The first three harmonics illustrated.
The one at the seventh fret is a perfect fifth above its fundamental,
and the one at the fifth fret is two octaves above the fundamental. If
harmonics are a new thing to you, just work on it for a while. They are
worth knowing even if you don't end up using them for tuning.
Harmonics tuning diagram.
What makes this useful is that a fifth, in music theory terms, is the
inversion of a fourth, Knowing that, the way this approach works is like
this. As with the previous method, you use whatever means at your
disposal to get the E sting in tune. Then you compare the harmonic the
fifth fret of the E string with the seventh fret harmonic on the A
string, and tune the A string until they match. Now you repeat the
process to tune the D and G strings. At that point you hit the tuning
hiccup, so the harmonic method won't work, except that the 7th fret
harmonic back on the low E happens to be the note you need for the B
string open. So, you tune the B string that way. You get the high E by
going back to the fifth-fret harmonic = seventh-fret harmonic method.
The illustration at right, um, illustrates this approach. At this point,
if all went well, you should be in tune.
Strengths and weaknesses
There are some clear advantages to this approach. First, the notes you
are listening to are all in the range where it is easier to hear when
they are correctly in tune. Second, one of the problems with the other
method was that open strings have a lot of overtones (parts of the
harmonic series that are present, even though you are not aware you are
hearing them). Harmonics do too, to some extent, but much less so-that
is why they have a clear bell-like quality. This means you more clearly
hear the notes you are actually tuning. Third, and this may be my
favorite, you can leave both notes sounding while you tune since you
don't have to have your fret-hand on the fingerboard once the harmonic
has started to sound (it is essentially an open string, just with
multiple nodes). It is much easier to tune two notes when you can hear
them both at the same time, particularly once they are getting close.
The difference between an equal tempered fifth (what your guitar is
designed for) and a perfect fifth (harmonic) is two cents (the E.T. one
is slightly flat). A 'cent' is one hundredth of a semitone. You may not
be able to hear it, but when you multiply it times five, you probably
can. Even if you can't, you should assume your audience can.
Nevertheless, Gerald Klickstein argues in favor of this method, but modifies it by
flattening the higher string a specific number of cents, which will vary
according to the string being tuned. The variation is because of a
tuning technique called 'stretching' that compensates for the fact that
the 'beats' in the fifths multiplies to become audibly uncomfortable
over several octaves. Presumably he does this by counting the beats
after he slightly detunes the fifths. No doubt, this takes a while to
learn to do well.
Alright you sticklers, I know ancient Greek did not have any punctuation
at all-can you say, 'humor'? 'Comma,' in this case means 'interval'
referring to the difference between a stack of (7) octaves and a stack
of (12) perfect fifths (about a quarter of a semi-tone).
The fifth fret produces the two octave harmonic, so it is not subject to
the Pythagorean comma problem.
Of course, this doesn't solve the problems that come from your
instrument-the ones you were blaming the tuning problems on in the last
tuning method. Although I was making fun of our tendency to blame shift,
they often do exist. Still, there is a more fundamental issue, known as
the Comma of
Pythagoras. The bottom line is that the kind of fifth that will
make your guitar in tune is not exactly the same as a perfect fifth in
the overtone series-close, but not quite there. Don't get me wrong, it
may be close enough for you to sound generally in tune, and the
advantages of this method may get you in better shape than the
previously 5th-4th fret method described previously, but you will still
get off, even if you tune perfectly.10
Harmonics tuning diagram.
The octaves method is not hindered by Pythagoras' punctuation
issues.11 It is based on the fact that the seventh fret of the
second string in these pairs of fourth-tuned strings is an octave above
the first string open. Since an octave is pretty easy to hear, you can
use that as another way to tune string pairs. If the octave is hard to
tune to, you can tune from the 12th fret harmonic on the
lower of the two strings.
There is no easy solution for the G to B strings, so you have to go back
to one of the other methods for that one.
Strengths and weaknesses
I often use this method in combination with the fifth fret method to
correct my low E to A, particularly if it gets off in mid-concert.
However, it is not a general purpose favorite of mine. That does not
mean it cannot be yours. It often is my method of choice for the bass,
though, although I don't use the harmonics. I have personally found bass
harmonics to be packed with overtones. Maybe it depends on what sort of
strings you use.
It obviously suffers from the same imperfect guitar and imperfect hearer
problems as the other methods, and just like the other methods, those
problems can accumulate additively.
We have all done it. Something sounds off, so you strum your
favorite chord and tune the string that sounds wrong. OK, and maybe
another (couple). The chord sounds good so you must be in tune, right?
So you start in on the song, and the next chord is off. In fact every
other chord is off, so you try tuning to another chord. Same problem. No
pretending you don't know what I'm talking about here.
Why doesn't it work? Well, if you remember the problems with the
harmonics tuning approach, you are probably on the right track. You are
naturally going to want to tune your fifths to the sweet sounding
perfect version, and we have already seen that that will get you in
trouble. But there is more trouble than that in River City (how many of
my readers are old enough to recognize that reference?). The fifth may
get you two cents sharp, but the third you get tuning by ear will take
you 14 cents flat. That one chord is going to be real pretty. Everything
else will stink. One option is to start a cover band that specializes in
one-chord songs. Failing that you are
just going to have to settle for the equal tempered tuning system (see
note 10). Sorry to say, that means you are
going to have to give up this tuning method. The only exception is that
sometimes it can help you find the one string that is off, which you
then tune using a technique that actually works.
Fixed note tuning
I don't remember who first developed this method. I do remember hearing
about it from my instructor about 40 years ago, and he seemed to think
it was the latest, hottest thing, but what did he know? Since then a lot
of people seem to have 'discovered' it. The idea is, first and foremost,
to eliminate cumulative error by tuning all strings to the same common
source string. The version I heard started from the low E string, like
all the tuning methods we have looked at so far. I have seen an
alternate version that starts from the high E string (so, for example,
Paul Guy's approach). Being a music major in a classical music
department, though, it occurred to me that all the other instruments
started by tuning to A 440, and I wondered why the guitar should be
different. After all, we have a perfectly good A string with 440 on the
5th fret harmonic.12 OK, I'm not the only person who ever thought of that,
either. Dave McClure does this on his Equal Temperament Guitar Tuning page.
But one thing they all seem to do is assume your guitar is perfectly
intoned (McClure, for example, has you tuning the G string from the 10th
fret on the A string). It isn't. So my approach tries to avoid fretted
notes above the fifth fret. This is because if your guitar is not
perfect, its accuracy will increasingly decline as you move up the
fret-board. The trick is to use a combination of unisons and octaves.
But enough prelude; let's get to it.
One-source tuning diagram.
The chart on this one looks a lot more complicated. But once you see the
logic, it is pretty intuitive.
1. Begin by getting your A string in tune by tuning the fifth fret harmonic
to a tuning fork or other standard A-440 source. The next five steps can
really be in any order. This is the one I use.
2. Go back one to tune your low E string to the A using the standard fifth
3. Use the same fifth fret technique to tune the D string to the A.
4. Tune the A on the G string (second fret) to an octave higher than the A
string. If you want a unison, you can use the 12th fret
harmonic on the A string instead.
5. Tune the B string to the B on the A (second fret). You can also get the
unison, but this time using the artificial harmonic on the A string
14th fret with the second fret pressed.
6. The fifth fret on the high E is also A-440, so tune it to the fifth fret
harmonic on A that you started with.
You think you are done, ha ha. Now you need to verify, which you do by
checking all the octaves.
1. Second fret on the D should be an octave above open low E, and an
octave below open high E.
2. Second fret on G should be an octave above open A.
3. Third fret on B should be an octave above open D.
4. Third fret on high E should be an octave above open G.
5. C'est bon. Now high E open should be an octave above the second fret on
6. Open B should be an octave above the second fret on A.
7. Open G should be an octave above the third fret on the low E.
Fixing an intonation issue may be as simple as replacing the strings,
but if they are reasonably new (but also used long enough to be broken
in), you should take your instrument to a qualified repair person and
see if the problem can be fixed. If it is an electric, you could try
adjusting the bridge yourself, both height and intonation.
If all those worked, you are in tune. If one of them was off, do not
tune them to each other. Rather, re-tune them both to the A string. Keep
at it until they are right. If it is not possible, your guitar and/or
strings have intonation issues. You can do an on-the fly fudge by
slightly shifting both strings towards or away from each other but
keeping their relative distances from A the same, but you will want to
do something about your intonation problem.13 Do this until all
the octave tests pass. Now you are in tune.
Strengths and weaknesses
Strength: It works if you do it right. Weakness: It is more complicated.
If you stuck with me all the way to this point, I conclude that you have
perseverance. God luck on your tuning adventure.